Urban Fold

Underused Natural Gas Capacity

Our underused natural gas capacity could almost completely replace our current coal-generated energy, argues Sean Casten, President & CEO of Recycled Energy Development.

"Two interesting observations:

1. 50% of U.S. power generation (in MWh) comes from coal, while only 20% comes from natural gas.
2. 32% of total U.S. power generation capacity (in MW) is coal-fired, while 42% is gas-fired.

When it runs, the natural gas fleet emits just 50% of the CO2 of the coal fleet, which raises a rather interesting question: what would we have to do to make it run harder? And how big a difference would that make in our national CO2 footprint?

So why, if we have more natural gas generation capacity, do we get more of our power from coal?

Simple: we have a lot of gas-fired generation (449 GW, as of 2007), it doesn't run very often. The coal fleet is comparatively smaller (336 GW), but runs a lot more frequently. It is as if our vehicle fleet were dominated by Priuses, but they stayed parked while we drove our Escalades to work.

We have a huge resource that is already built that could massively lower CO2 emissions. Taking a page from the NRA, what if the problem isn't that we need to build more low-carbon generation, but that we just need to make better use of what we have?"

Full Story: How to shut down 93% of coal without building new plants or reducing power supply



Energy recycling!

I'm glad you're quoting Sean Casten, who runs a company (Recycled Energy Development) that I'm associated with. There's an awful lot of potential in combined heat & power, which often runs on natural gas and could be the key way that we use more of that power source. In fact, studies done for the EPA and DOE suggest that CHP and other forms of energy recycling are already able to slash U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 20%. That's as much as if we removed every passenger vehicle from the road. Meanwhile, costs would fall due to increased efficiency. We should be doing much more of this.

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